Run Walk Method For Running A Marathon

I ran the LA Marathon last year and it was one the most enjoyable marathons I’ve ever run. The atmosphere, the scenery, and my race strategy….
I ran-walked the whole thing, and finished in 4.16 (including a 6 minute wait for a loo break).
How to Run Walk a marathon
I’d never used the run-walk strategy either in training or racing before my friend (and coach) Ashley introduced me to it. I would have at least one run per week as a 4 min run/1 min walk, and then as my mileage ramped up, some of my long runs would be 9 min run/1 min walk, including my 20 miler prior to LA.

I feel like my post-marathon recovery was quicker after utilising walk breaks throughout the 26.2, and I was able to do an easy run just two days later, and run a half marathon within 2 weeks.

Jeff Galloway Run Walk Method

Jeff Galloway is an American runner, representing the US in the 10,000m in the Munich Olympian 1972. However I think he is most known for his coaching, having trained runners such as Steve Prefontaine, Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers, not to mention the 350,000 runners that have used one of his training programmes.

Galloway designed the run-walk-run method (a form of interval training) in 1973 to help people start running. He included strategic walk breaks to allow beginner runners to control fatigue, virtually eliminating significant running injuries.

How to Run Walk a marathon

Benefits of the Run Walk Method

Helps with the Mental Side of Running

Running for 4 minutes or even 1 minute seems a lot less daunting than running for 30 minutes, especially when you’re first starting out or coming back from an injury/period of time off.

Speeds Up Your Overall Pace

Yes really, according to Jeff Galloway, the average half marathon race times were improved by 7 minutes, whilst marathon finish time improved by 13 minutes when runners transitioned from traditional running to a run/walk method. And in numerous surveys, older runners were able to post faster finish times when they transitioned to a Run Walk strategy.

Build Endurance

I’ve personally been using run/walk as I build up my mileage, hoping to hit around 20-30 miles per week. It’s allowed me to keep mile pace down, not feel overwhelmed as I return to running and clock up time and distance. I’m certain I’m able to cover more miles overall each week than I would if I were running them all without any planned walk breaks.

Allows You to Fuel

I used my 1 minute walk breaks during the LA marathon to fuel and hydrate, no more throwing that cup of water over yourself! I’ve also used a much less structured run-walk method during my half marathon PB, walking during the water stations every 2 miles, ensuring that I was well hydrated.

Great for Beginners

The Couch to 5K app starts off with just 1 minute of running and builds up combining a walk/run strategy with the running segments gradually increased until runners can run for 30 minutes straight. Utilising run/walk helps beginners or those coming back to running build back fitness and endurance.

Recover Faster

Using the run walk method is thought to speed up recovery post run or race because there is less muscle damage to repair. Early walk breaks ease fatigue, whilst later walk breaks reduce or eliminate muscle breakdown from overuse. Additionally, they are perfect for those easy/recovery runs that are part of most runner’s training plans, forcing you to slow down and disregard pace for those miles. So many of us are guilty of running the easy miles too fast!

Reduce Injuries

A lot of the pains and injury that runners sustain are due to overuse (or doing too much, too soon). The walking breaks built into these plans allow brief moments of recovery, reducing risk of injury. Jeff’s first training groups that used this method had very low injury rates!

How to Run Walk a marathon

How To Train For A Marathon Using The Run Walk Method

You don’t need to follow the whole Jeff Galloway training program to benefit from this run walk run method. When I was training for the Edinburgh Marathon last year, I used the run and walk strategy for one or two easy runs per week. I looked forward to these runs more than I ever thought, especially after tough workouts!

Alternatively you can use a a run/walk strategy that works for you, such as walking through water stations, walking for a certain number of strides every mile, walking as you fuel or walking on the uphills or downhills (depending on terrain and your knees!).

Just remember, this is about planned walking breaks, not taking walking breaks when you feel tired!

Work Out Your Run-Walk Ratio

Start off with a ‘magic mile‘ for you to establish what ratio of run-walk you should be using. You run a hard mile then you can use the calculations on Jeff’s website…

  • Add 33 seconds to your magic mile for your pace for a 5K
  • Multiply your magic mile time by 1.15 for 10K pace
  • Multiply your magic mile time by by 1.2 for half marathon pace
  • Multiply your magic mile time by by 1.3 for marathon pace

The website gives run/walk ratios from everything from a 7 min mile pace (6.30:30 or 1 mile/walk 40 seconds), up to 18.30-20.o0 min mile pace (5 second run/30 second walk).

I find these ratios are a good starting point  but you can work out the right run intervals/walk intervals for you. Personally I like a 4 min run/1 min walk, whilst the Magic Mile app would have me running 4 minutes/30 second walk. You should be able to get into a running groove, so if you find the run portion too short, you can adjust that to suit your pace.

But you shouldn’t be counting down to the walk break, struggling for breath… if that’s the case then slow down the run segment or run for a shorter period of time (unless you’re doing a speed workout, but that’s a totally different run/walk scenario)

Practice Run/Walking Increasing Distance Gradually

As with any training plan, you should build up your distance/time slowly. You can do this in terms of both overall mileage, number of days you’re running and the run intervals (increasing your running segments and reducing your walking segments).

It’s important to practice your run/walk strategy if you plan on using it during your race so that you get used to the stop/start motion of the method, and establish what ratio works best for you. You also need to ensure that you continue moving forward briskly during the walking portions rather than coming to a complete stop!

How to Run Walk a marathon

Set Up Your Watch

Many watches allow you to set up workouts/intervals so that it will beep or vibrate for each interval, this way you avoid starting at your watch throughout the run.

Don’t Ignore the Weather or Terrain

If you’re running in high heat/humidity, or over very hilly terrain, you might need to adjust your run/walk intervals, either adding in longer walking breaks or reducing the running segments.

Take the Long Runs Slow

Jeff suggests taking your ‘magic mile’ time and multiplying it by 1.3, then adding two minutes to get your long run pace. So if your Magic Mile was an 8 minute mile, then your long run pace would be 12.40 min miles (although the Magic Mile calculator actually suggested a 12.24 mile for long runs). You shouldn’t be huffing and puffing at any point according to Jeff.

Using the calculator to work out what pace sub 3.30 marathon plan long run would be came out at 9.48 min mile pace. That’s seems pretty slow to me! I was running 9 mins/1 min walk with the run paces at an 8.30-9 min mile pace during my 20 mile long run prior to the LA Marathon.

I would recommend focusing on effort rather than pace on your long runs, keeping things feeling easy!

My coach also didn’t schedule all of my long runs as run/walk – I would also have some fast finish runs, or long runs with intervals.

Time on Your Feet

I was surprised that Jeff Galloway’s marathon training plan has you covering nearly the full marathon distance during training, with a 26 mile long run 4 weeks out from race day.

Again I think you need to find the length of pre-marathon long run that suits you. I like to do at least one 20 miler, whilst the Hansen Marathon Method tops out at 16 miles. You can follow the long run distances that are on your training plan and simply implement the run/walk method into those runs.

Crosstraining

According to the Galloway method, you can cross-train on your non-running days to ‘increase fatburning potential’. Personally, I think there’s so much more to cross-training including increasing fitness and strength, not to mention the mental health benefits.

Do you utilise any planned walking breaks within your training or racing? 

3 Comments

  1. Tara
    29th June 2020 / 6:48 pm

    I have always been a walk/runner, starting with training with the Running Room in 2012 8 weeks after my second son was born. They build you up to 10 min run/1 min walk, but I always found my sweet spot was 6 min run/1 min walk. You are so right that scheduling walk breaks helps you mentally as well as physically. It makes all my runs less daunting as I struggle to get back into it.

  2. Scott Campbell
    29th June 2020 / 11:47 pm

    Though a lifetime runner I didn’t start marathon training until 10 years ago when I was 52. I bought Galloway’s book and followed his 26 week plan targeting 4:00 hours. I started out using the 4 min run/1 min walk plan.
    Unfortunately I picked a hilly San Francisco course for my first race and had no hydration or fueling plan. I finished at 4:13 barely able to stand up. The main positive was the run/walk approach.
    It took me three tries to break 4 hours.
    I then set my sights on Boston at 3:40. By now I was at a1 mile run/30 sec walk plan with water every mile and fuel every 5 miles during the walking stage. I also switched to the Hansen Method for a more structured plan but kept the run/walk approach. It took two years but I ran a 3:35 using the 1 mile/30 sec plan.
    I’ve since modified my approach to walk every mile but only long enough to hydrate our fuel, maybe 10 seconds. I still enjoy the mental break every mile. Two years ago I PR’d at Chicago at 3:29.
    I’m still running marathons though I’ve added triathlon training and am targeting a full IM later this year. I still employ run/walking into all my non-recovery runs. Luckily I’ve avoided injury in the 10 years I’ve done marathon training. I just started having some Plantar Fasciitis issues that is likely due to increased training load and more speed work. May be time for orthotics.
    I still swear by Galloway’s approach and would recommend it whole heartedly.

    Scott

  3. Laurel
    30th June 2020 / 1:01 pm

    One of my favorite running workouts it to run 10 minutes, walk 1 minute, run 9 minutes, walk 1 minute, run 8 minutes, walk 1 minute, and so on, all the way down to run 1 minute, walk 1 minute. It ends up being a perfect 65 minute run and it feels SO doable mentally.

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